Elegies in Blue
By Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Benjamin Sáenz writes, "In the desert, we live in a desert of translation." That is exactly what he sets out to do, in this, his third book of poems--translate experience into words. He writes of history and learning and death. He writes of loss and knowledge and the difficulties of coming to terms with the harsh and untamable landscape of the border. Ultimately, his elegies are "stones that praise the lives" of those who have given him words.
In the tradition of Latin American literature, Sáenz believes that poetry should be part of the public discourse and not shunted aside as irrelevant to our country's larger issues. Here he maps out personal, political and spiritual histories. He speaks about political and literary heroes, anti-heroes and everyday people, and he remembers his growing up Chicano in the Catholic world of the U.S./Mexico Border. From these elements, he creates a philosophy of speaking publicly as poet.
About the Creators
Benjamin Alire Sáenz was born in 1954 in Old Picacho, a small farming village outside of Las Cruces, New Mexico, forty-two miles north of the U.S. / Mexico border. He was the fourth of seven children and was brought up in a traditional Mexican-American Catholic family. He entered the seminary in 1972, a decision that was as much political as it was religious. After concluding his theological studies at the University of Louvain, he was ordained a Catholic priest. Three and a half years later, he left the priesthood. At the age of 30, he entered the University of Texas at El Paso. He later received a fellowship at the University of Iowa. In 1988, he received a Wallace E. Stegner Fellowship in poetry from Stanford University. In 1993, he returned to the border to teach in the bilingual MFA program at UTEP.
Sáenz is the author of a previous book of poetry, Calendar of Dust, which won an American Book Award. Cinco Puntos published two of his other books of poetry called Elegies in Blue and the now out of print, Dark and Perfect Angels. His most recent book of poetry, The Book of What Remains, was published by Copper Canyon Press in 2010. He is the author of numerous novels, books for children and young adults as well as a previous collection of short stories. His award winning young adult novels are Sammy & Juliana in Hollywood, He Forgot to Say Goodbye, and Last Night I Sang to the Monster. His adult novels include Carry Me Like Water, The House of Forgetting, In Perfect Light, and Names on a Map.